How to manage your files in the cloud
13th Oct 2013 | 11:30
What businesses need to know about cloud storage
Storing files in the cloud can be a smart move. It means that your data is no longer tethered to your office PC or company server. Your files are available anywhere and from any device.
But there are so many ways to store data and many different companies offering storage in the cloud. This tutorial will look at the various options open to you.
What do you want to store?
When managing files in the cloud, you'll need to understand how the data is going to be used by employees.
For most companies, storing files in the cloud should work in the same way files are stored on a local network or PC. This means cloud storage will look and work like another drive attached to the computer. Most cloud storage resembles this paradigm, such as Box and Dropbox.
Other types of storage come attached with a service. For example, Evernote stores data in notebooks so that data (text files, audio and video and so on) gets logically grouped together as projects, enabling people to collaborate on tasks. Google Drive also stores data but has a cloud-based productivity suite so that files can be created, changed and updated using web-based word processors, spreadsheet and presentation applications.
Ease of use
Not only should files be easy to store in the cloud; setting up access should be simple too. If users are out of the office and they need access to files quickly, a simple installation may be necessary to ensure everyone can access data as quickly as possible.
Also, cloud storage should be easy enough to use so as to make it a popular choice with users. Anything requiring a lot of effort and thought to move files in and out of will mean staff don't bothering to use the service you have signed up to - and will probably end up using something more accessible to their level of competency.
Most, if not all, cloud storage services have some kind of app that enables a smartphone or tablet to access files in the cloud. When managing files in the cloud it's important to understand what devices you have in your organisation: not all cloud storage services support all devices. There is no point in having a cloud storage service that can't be accessed by all your staff out in the field.
A lot of mobile apps simply offer access - but some facilitate editing of documents stored in the cloud within the app itself.
Any organisation looking to store files and data in the cloud will need to know how secure that information is. For data to remain private will be desirable for most - and mandatory for anyone operating in an industry that has regulations requiring data security.
It's fortunately becoming increasingly rare to find a cloud storage service that doesn't employ some form of encryption, so for most this will be about finding the right level of encryption and access based on identity.
Files should be encrypted locally before being uploaded into the cloud. Uploading should be carried out via an encrypted connection such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
When securing information in the cloud, you may also need to restrict some files to certain individuals or groups within your organisation. Not all cloud storage services offer this kind of functionality, so it's important to research which services ensure who sees what and who can share information with others.
Additionally, knowing what the cloud storage service will do in the event of the service being hacked and data being lost is key. Unfortunately, many providers have get-out clauses in their terms and conditions that leave very few remedies for the user should the worst happen.
Backing up and restoring
Most people accept that it's a good idea to back up data that is on a server, but few realise the same must be done with files in the cloud. Many mistakenly believe that if data is in the cloud it must be safe. But many cloud storage providers don't offer or guarantee this. Really important data should be backed up and encrypted elsewhere as insurance against any disaster that might befall your cloud storage provider.